Germany Vattenfall, BMW and Bosch build electricity storage with used electric car batteries.

In Hamburg, electric transportation is made even more sustainable as old electric car batteries are reused and combined into a huge storage for energy. Vattenfall has opened a test facility with 2,600 battery modules from more than 100 electric BMW cars in Hamburg’s harbour district.

The facility can store 2,800 kilowatt hours and has a capacity to deliver 2 MW power. The principal use is, however, not to store energy for windless days but to keep the electric power grid stable at 50 Hz. 

Batteries are ideal
The ability to stabilise power frequency is increasingly important as more and more weather-dependent power sources are being introduced in the power system. Batteries are ideal for this purpose as they can switch between charging and discharging power in fractions of seconds.

The project reuses lithium-ion batteries from BMW’s electric car test fleet that have reached the end of their life cycle in the vehicle. In this way the batteries get a second life. Bosch has provided the technical solution and integrated the batteries and the intelligent controlling equipment. Vattenfall will manage the operation and market access of the battery facility.

“As e-mobility evolves there will be a need to take care of used batteries and our project bridges the time until there is a large-scale recycling process in place. Today there are not so many batteries available – these are from BMW’s test-fleet – but we believe it is important to be ready when the time comes,” says Daniel Hustadt, project leader for the Hamburg energy storage facility at Vattenfall.

In operation in 2017
Vattenfall’s 2 MW facility is now in a test phase and will be connected to the grid in the beginning of 2017. In operation, the battery will typically switch between charging and discharging every few seconds. However the grid operator’s requirements stipulate that it must be capable of delivering uninterrupted power for 15 minutes.

Primary power control capacity is traded on the national power markets. In Germany the grid operator buys more than 600 MW every week, today mostly thermal and pumped storage hydro power, at a cost of between EUR 2,000 and EUR 3,000 per MW.

“There is a growing market for battery capacity to keep the grid stable, but prices are expected to go down as battery prices will continue to fall. So we have a growing pipeline of projects under development, in areas where we have a competitive edge. On top of this we are offering to install batteries at our customers’ sites,” says Claus Wattendrup, Business Development manager at Vattenfall within Business area Wind.

Giant battery in the UK
In the UK, Vattenfall recently won a tender for the National Grid and will build an even bigger, 22 MW battery facility on the premises of its Pen y Cymoedd wind farm. In this case, the batteries have not been used for other purposes previously.

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